Upcycled or Repurposed – These two words seem to be interchangeable these days, but actually refer to two totally different concepts.
Upcycling – Let’s say that you go to a garage sale and find a great old side table. The finish has worn off and it’s scuffed in many places, but it has “good bones”. You bring it home, sand it, paint it, paint or stencil on some flowers and place it in your living room. You have just upcycled a side table. You’ve taken a piece of furniture and made it better, but the purpose of it hasn’t changed. Here are a couple of examples of my own upcycling. This is an antique birdcage that I purchased. I don’t have the pictures of it’s original condition, but the finish was chipped, the cage and stand were rusted. I sanded it, primed it and painted it. I don’t have a bird in it, but it is still a birdcage…..a much improved birdcage. Now, I could place a plant inside the cage and use it as a plant stand. That would be repurposing.
Here is a vintage sewing box. When I purchased it, it had a worn cherry wood finish that was scuffed. I sanded it and painted it in white and added the roses. It is still a sewing box, but in my mind, a much improved sewing box. It has been upcycled. The use is the same as it was, but the look is fresh.
Repurposing Here are a couple of examples of repurposing. This is a vintage teacup and saucer. I’ve totally changed its purpose and have made it in to a hanging candle.
Here’s a coffee can that I’ve painted, stenciled and stamped and am now using it to hold some of my painting brushes. The use has been changed.
Personally, I think I enjoy repurposing more than upcycling. I would really not have a use for a vintage teacup and saucer, but changing it’s purpose gives it new life. I love looking at items, especially vintage, and creating a new purpose for them. The next time you’re at a yard sale, use your imagination. Try to look beyond an item’s current use and think of other possibilities. Just for fun, I’ll leave you with one more example of repurposing. Here are some regular clay pots and saucers. They were meant to hold a plant or seedlings. But with a little glue, some paint and some added bling, they now make great candle holders!